He was properly elected, as were Obama and Bush. This ideological weapon needs to be retired.
House Speaker Paul Ryan stood stone-faced behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as she addressed the new 115th Congress. Before handing him the gavel, she tossed a Molotov cocktail at the GOP — saying our democracy cannot be “subverted by the dark operations of a foreign regime.”
Pelosi was referring, of course, to reports that Russia had attempted to influence the American election in favor of Donald Trump, who it is believed is friendlier to the Russian regime. Just days before U.S. intelligence agencies released findings to that effect, she was surfing a wave of stories like one in the New York Times that bore the headline “Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking.”
This tapestry of vagueness has led to confusion about what exactly happened during the election. According to a recent YouGov poll, 52% of Democrats think the Russians “definitely” or “probably” tampered with vote tallies to help Trump’s election.
Yet there is no evidence of any kind that this type of “hacking” took place. There is, however, strong evidence that Russian agents gained access to emails from the Democratic National Committee and other notable Democrats and released them prior to Election Day. According to reports, many of these emails were compromised because of Democrats that fell victim to phony emails urging them to divulge their passwords.
There’s scant evidence that even publication of these emails made any difference. Intelligence officials have said that is not possible to measure. Perhaps the most impactful national secret now out in the open is Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s recipe for creamy risotto.
But Pelosi is not interested in nuance. Her job is to feed the wing of her party that seeks to delegitimize the Trump presidency, even if she has to take the solemn first day of the new Congress to spin her conspiracy fantasies. And she is not alone — outgoing Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid opined that Russian interference in the election was “as big as” the attacks of 9/11 or Watergate.
In doing so, Pelosi is trafficking in a modern warhead of ideological weaponry: the idea that a new president of the opposite party is not only wrong, but that he or she actually holds the presidency illegitimately.
Certainly, Americans have always argued that ideologically opposite politicians are wrong, or perhaps unqualified. (And on these counts, I have argued Trump is both.) But the idea that the presidency was gained through trickery or subterfuge keeps gaining momentum.
It began most notably following the 2000 election, when Democrats convinced themselves George W. Bush actually lost Florida, and thus the election. Even though an extensive review of the vote by multiple news groups (including USA TODAY) in 2001 confirmed that Bush would have won almost any recount, liberals still hang on to this fantasy even in 2017.
Of course, this is by no means a partisan phenomenon. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, fringe Republicans pushed the idea that Obama was not born in the United States, and thus was ineligible to hold office. Ironically, one of the primary reasons Trump is unqualified for the presidency is that he gave life to the moronic “birther” movement.
And now the pendulum has swung back to the Democrats, who credit Russian skullduggery for Trump’s win. This, of course, relieves them of the burden of reflecting on the awfulness of their own candidate. Ironically, near the end of the campaign, Clinton tweeted that not respecting the results of the campaign would be a “direct threat to our democracy.” She likely has not responded to Pelosi’s attempts to undermine the election results because she is wandering the woods of New York State looking for Eleven from Netflix’s Stranger Things.
If the reporting on this so far is correct, what the Russians did was essentially add more information to the public knowledge base about the candidates. They simply put information out and let the public digest it, which is far less nefarious than the actual hacking of vote machines. In fact, on Election Day, there were few voters that didn’t know Russia was trying to influence the election through the release of the emails. (I wrote about it in June.)
That doesn’t, of course, mean that Trump’s policies toward Russia shouldn’t be under heavy scrutiny. If the president were anyone other than Donald Trump, a misguided desire to have friendlier relations with an adversarial power like Russia would be a foreign policy at least worth debating. But the contents of Trump’s brain are often between him and his Twitter feed, and crediting him with a coherent view of the world appears to be presumptuous.